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Jacobo Soifer is the co-founder and prime mover at Fenzi South America, formerly Fenzi Argentina, established in 1996.
A man with intimate knowledge of the world of glass and the South American market, he reached a major milestone this summer – his 80th birthday. There’s no better way to celebrate this splendid occasion than by giving him free rein to tell the story of his adventures.
Congratulations, Jacobo, on your 80th birthday. Please tell us how your story with Fenzi began?
Allow me to introduce myself: I’m Jacobo Soifer, Argentinean, born in Buenos Aires on August 10, 1932. I’m married, have 3 children and 9 grandchildren.
In 1995 I met Dino Fenzi at an industry trade show in Houston, Texas. He was considering offering me the chance to represent the Fenzi company in MERCOSUR. I had already met Dino a few years earlier, 7 or 8, when I was the owner of a company that produced mirrors, using Fenzi paints. From the drift of our conversation, I understood that Fenzi was interested in selling its Duralux paints to the mirror manufacturing company that was part of the Pilkington group in Argentina.
When I returned home from that trip, thanks in particular to my close relationship with this company, we agreed upon the sale of a container of this product, the first in Argentina. I remember the day it arrived in town, it was Easter, a holiday. The company allowed us to go ahead with the first test runs with the paint anyway; those trials passed with flying colors and prompted the first decisive push for the exclusive use of that product, an agreement that has lasted 15 years.
Not long after, I began sounding out the insulating glass market, asking flat glass manufacturers and processors for information; I realized that the time was ripe to promote the idea that the glass used in construction should become, as in the rest of the world, synonymous with energy savings, acoustic insulation, and improvement of the quality of life.
At this point, it was clear that my knowledge of glass could be useful to this end. I should explain that I come from a modest family. My immigrant father acquired a glassworks while my mother was expecting me. I always say I was fed on glass, even in my mother’s belly, because she also helped my father at work.
When Dino read about the potential of this market in my reports, he wasted no time joining me in Buenos Aires where we participated in a small trade show; upon his return, I received a message in which he offered me a partnership in the Fenzi group in Argentina to market and sell the products.
Not long after, I hadn’t even had the time to consider his proposal, I received another letter to set up a company in Argentina, where he had already funded the capital to begin operations under the name of Fenzi Argentina SA. Our partnership was formalized in Buenos Aires on November 21,1996.
What was the company’s number one secret to success?
The number one factor was my personal knowledge, built up over many years, of the Argentine market and the MERCOSUR member countries; this edge meant that the doors were open to us in all the companies on this continent, so we were able to quickly announce ourselves in Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, etc.
Which products are the biggest sellers in South America?
Duralux is the leader: today 90% of the mirror manufacturers in South America are our clients, importing significant quantities of paints directly from Fenzi SpA. Another key area that is growing fast is the production of IG units, which is reaching big numbers in all the countries. We managed to install Glass Alliance products not only in office buildings but also in homes, with increasingly good results because the demand for insulating glass is growing in new markets, especially in countries where its use is required.
What possible future developments are in the air for Fenzi South America?
Fenzi South America has been the company’s new name for a year; we adopted this new name because we opened ourselves up predominantly to the markets in all of South America over the last 5-6 years; we brought young people on staff in the company and we are going forward with development of new projects, necessary to make room for the technologies that will be a part of our daily life: only in this manner can we continue to ensure ourselves the success we have already reached, looking to the future with confidence and certainty. We are also thinking about beginning to manufacture locally, in the not too distant future, in light of the new import regulations.
Today the company has the resources it needs to meet the customers’ requirements; that is, we can warehouse popular stock to cover sales of all the products for three months and provide technical support for the development of new markets.
What thoughts would you like to share today?
Eighty years? I feel like I’m 40, I don’t feel old enough to retire. This might be what my age would suggest, but my mind and my body ask me every day to start up new projects. If I were to consider not working, I would spend my time in those activities that fulfill me physically, spiritually and have the potential to be useful to society.
Best wishes Jacobo, and thanks for the lively chat.
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